A guide for young people Depression

If you think you might have depression, you're not alone. Find out more about this common, treatable condition and what to do if you're affected by it.

What is depression?

Instagram artwork by @laurajaneillustrations. A yellow speech bubble with text inside that says 'You Are Stronger Than That Mean Voice Inside Your Head'.

Artwork credit: @laurajaneillustrations. The artwork depicts a yellow speech bubble with the words: 'You are stronger than that mean voice inside your head'.

We all feel low or down at times, but if your negative emotions last a long time or feel very severe, you may have depression.

Depression is a mood disorder where you feel very down all the time.

Depression can happen as a reaction to something like abuse, bullying or family breakdown, but it can also run in families.

Depression often develops alongside anxiety. 

It's not the same as manic depression, which is another term for bipolar disorder. 

Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness. Although it's hard to feel optimistic when you're depressed, there is lots of support available to help you feel better.

The symptoms of depression

Instagram artwork by @youngmindsuk. Mountains and a yellow sun with text wrapped around that reads 'These Feelings Are Temporary And Won't Last Forever'.

The artwork depicts hand-drawn, shaded mountains in black and white, to the left is a dark cloud with rain falling from it, behind the mountains is a yellow sun rising up from behind the mountains. In front of the mountains is a scroll that reads: 'these feelings are temporary and won't last forever.'

Depression affects different people in different ways. Symptoms can include:

  • not wanting to do things that you previously enjoyed
  • avoiding friends or social situations
  • sleeping more or less than normal
  • eating more or less than normal
  • feeling irritable, upset, miserable or lonely
  • being self-critical
  • feeling hopeless
  • maybe wanting to self-harm
  • feeling tired and not having any energy

Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by depression. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.

How to speak to your GP

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Imogen, 20, shares her tips for coping with SAD on our blog.

"Although seasonal affective disorder is very common, it’s not something you hear talked about enough. It is similar to depression, except it comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, with the symptoms usually being mainly present during the winter. These symptoms include low mood, a lack of energy, a loss of pleasure in activities you would normally enjoy, and feelings of irritability.

"Just know that while it may feel like your feelings are never-ending and things will never get better, they will. Whether this is a new thing for you or you have been struggling for years, things will get better. You are not alone in this I promise you."

Tips for coping with seasonal affective disorder

What to do about depression

Text in yellow and light blue bubble writing reads 'it is okay to show that you are not okay'.

The artwork depicts wording in blue and yellow that is outlined in black pen. The words read: 'it is okay to show that you are not okay.'

Take the first step

Depression can affect anyone, and you deserve help to feel better. Talk to someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.

You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.

Guide to CAMHS
  • Speak to your doctor or a trusted adult about how you’re feeling.
  • Don't be afraid to cry, especially if you're male - it helps to release emotions and you'll feel better afterwards.
  • Just know that sometimes we want a bad period of life to end rather than life itself.
  • Try to keep going outside, even if it’s just a short walk, it can really help your mood to lift.

Treating depression

Depression can be treated with therapy, or a combination of both therapy and medication. Exercise can also help relieve symptoms.

The most likely therapy you will be offered is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you manage your thoughts and feelings, although other types of talking therapy are available.

Find out more about medications
Realise that how your feeling won’t last forever and there’s always something to look forward to.
I started feeling like I could be around people and could enjoy things again.
Taking citalopram to treat depression: Rachel's story
Two young people sit on a sofa with the person on the left putting an arm around the other. They both are looking at each other while talking.
I found that counselling was helping me, and I was better able to control my panic attacks and ignore the things that were bothering me.
The power of opening up: Alisha's story
close up of a girl with long hair and one hand on chin listening to a person in front of her
Being introduced to CBT practices has helped me develop some new coping techniques, and I feel better prepared to cope with shifts in my mental health.
CBT for extreme mood swings, depression and mania: Natasha's story
Despite the side effects, nearly a year later I am still taking these medications. When I look back to my diagnosis, I can see that taking medication was the right option for me because of the progress I have made.
Taking sertraline, diazepam and mirtazapine: Clare's story

Get help now

Where to get help

If you're feeling down right now, don't bottle it up and struggle alone. Help is available - here are some services that can support you. 

  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support. N.B. This is a listening service and does not offer advice or intervention.

    Opening times:
  • Papyrus

    Offers confidential advice and support for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts.

    Its helpline service - HOPELINEUK - is available to anybody under the age of 35 experiencing suicidal thoughts, or anybody concerned that a young person could be thinking of suicide.

    Opening times:
    9am – midnight, 365 days a year
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

    Provides support to anyone in the UK who is feeling down and needs to talk or find information.

    Free webchat service available.

    Information about the helpline and how it works available here.

    Opening times:
    5pm - midnight, 365 days a year
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
  • The Mix

    Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

    Email support available via their online contact form.

    Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

    Free short-term counselling service available.

    Opening times:
    3pm - 12am, seven days a week